early 14c., papejaye (late 13c. as a surname), "a parrot," from Old French papegai (12c.), from Spanish papagayo, from Arabic babagha', Persian babgha "parrot," a word possibly formed in an African or other non-Indo-European language and imitative of its cry. The ending probably was assimilated in Western European languages to "jay" words (Old French jai, etc.).
Used of people in a complimentary sense (in allusion to beauty and rarity) from early 14c.; meaning "vain, talkative person" is recorded frpm 1520s. Obsolete figurative sense of "a target to shoot at" is explained by Cotgrave's 2nd sense definition: "also a woodden parrot (set up on the top of a steeple, high tree, or pole) whereat there is, in many parts of France, a generall shooting once euerie yeare; and an exemption, for all that yeare, from La Taille, obtained by him that strikes downe" all or part of the bird.
bird of the family Psittacidae, widespread in the tropics and noted for beautiful plumage and a fleshy tongue, which gives it the ability to learn to articulate words and sentences, 1520s, a word of uncertain origin, perhaps from dialectal French perrot, from a variant of Pierre "Peter;" or perhaps a dialectal form of perroquet (see parakeet). Replaced earlier popinjay. The German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in South America in 1800 encountered a very old parrot that was the sole speaker of a dead native language, the original tribe having gone extinct.